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Commentary: Get Fired Up or Get Snuffed Out (Part I)

13 Feb 2013

It’s that time of year when most state legislatures are gearing up. If you’re a cigar smoker, it’s also time to get ready to fight.

Although much of the cigar world’s attention is on federal efforts, such as the Food & Drug Administration’s proposal to regulate cigars, states are often where the most important legislation originates. The good news is this is also the area where individuals—especially when they’re organized—can have significant influence. Local and state politicians recognize their elections are usually low-turnout affairs and even a small, committed cadre can wield tremendous clout.

Last week, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) sent out a legislative update highlighting a dozen states where bills have been introduced that could impact cigar smokers. Not all are negative. Some would be positive. Quite a few deal with taxes, so they could affect what you pay. It’s imperative that cigar smokers in each state understand what’s at stake and get involved early.

In the first part of this StogieGuys.com report, we’ll highlight the latest pending legislation, using (to a large extent) material from IPCPR. If you don’t see your state don’t be complacent; this is not a comprehensive list, and developments can happen at nearly any time.

Kansas: House Bill 2219 would expand the exemptions allowed under the current law, which permits smoking in retail tobacco shops, casino gaming floors, private clubs, and some other establishments. Opponents claim the bill would allow smoking in virtually any business, but my reading is that probably the only real effect would be to allow smoking in bars. A similar bill last year went nowhere.

Kentucky: House Bill 190, the “Smoke-Free Kentucky Act,” would pretty much rule out smoking in any enclosed public or employment place, and there are no exemptions for tobacco shops.

Oklahoma: Senate Bill 36 would give localities the power to control tobacco, authority that is now reserved for the state. Senate Bill 327 would repeal a current law that prohibits discrimination against smokers and allow employers to reject applicants and fire workers who smoke.

Washington: Senate Bill 5070 would create an exemption to the statewide smoking ban by allowing retail tobacco shops to purchase a license that would permit smoking.

Florida: Two proposals have been introduced, House Bill 439 and Senate Bill 258, that would weaken the state’s sole authority to regulate smoking by granting localities the right to institute bans on municipal property (parks and beaches, for example).

Oregon: Senate Bill 119 and House Bill 2481 would permit localities to impose their own taxes on tobacco products.

The Oregon proposal is one of many involving taxes, but it’s about the only one that’s so straightforward. Cigars usually fall under the broad category of “other tobacco products,” and deciphering exactly what tax gets applied can be tricky.

These states are considering tax changes, according to the IPCPR’s update: Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico and Tennessee.

In Part II, we’ll look at ways you can find out what’s up in your state and exert influence.

-George E

photo credit: N/A

Drew Estate